New director selected to lead CSULB museum through name change and expansion

The campus art museum at Cal State Long Beach announced Wednesday that a new director will be taking the helm, one of two major changes on the horizon for the institution.

Coming from a directorship at the University of Nevada, Reno, Paul Baker Prindle will lead the University Art Museum’s transformation into the Carolyn Campagna Kleefeld Contemporary Art Museum, or Kleefeld Contemporary.

Prindle has opened two museums over the past decade, building two museum collections to challenge what CSULB officials described as “pervasive collecting shortcomings.” At the University of Nevada, Prindle grew the percentage of works by women in the John and Geraldine Lilley Museum of Art collection from 3% to 47%. 

“My vision is for the museum to be an outward-facing institution that foregrounds innovation, scholarship, and service within a region of great diversity,” Prindle said in a statement. “The success of our efforts hinges on thoughtful and sustained engagement with our neighbors, and I’m honored to have the opportunity to build deeper connections between the University and the people we serve.”

His collection practices support the works of self-taught, LGBTQ, Indigenous American and women artists, according to the museum. His new role will also include overseeing its major collections, including its Outdoor Sculpture Collection and recently gifted Kleefeld Collection starting Monday, July 22.

It was announced in April that Kleefeld had given 120 of her own works to the museum. In May, Kleefeld’s gift of $10 million to the College of the Arts prompted CSULB’s board of trustees to rename the museum after the writer, painter and poet. The gift will fund a significant expansion, to include a gallery showcasing Kleefeld’s works, among other facility enhancements.

Courtesy Kleefeld Contemporary.

Kleefeld was born in England, grew up in Southern California and studied art and psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles; she currently resides in Big Sur. Her portfolio includes paintings, drawings and over 20 books, some of which have been used in psychology courses at CSULB and other universities.

“A profound circle has magically manifested,” Kleefeld said in a statement. “When my parents, S. Mark and Amelia Taper, came to this country from England with my brother, sister, and myself, we first stayed for some time… in Long Beach, and later my father began his extensive housing for veterans there. So, now for my life’s work to be part of the Long Beach community is a destiny fulfilled.”

Kleefeld is the daughter of Mark Taper, a major postwar developer of Southern California who founded the Biltmore Homes in Long Beach, Compton, Norwalk and Lakewood for veterans. Well known for his philanthropy, Taper’s gift to the Los Angeles Music Center created the Mark Taper Forum, he also funded the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s first modern art gallery.

The news of Prindle’s new position comes almost a year after the firing of former museum director Kimberli Meyer. Meyer’s dismissal caused a stir as it occurred just days before a controversial exhibition on police violence against black civilians opened to the public and its artist, lauren woods, walked out in protest on opening night.

After firing of museum director, artist walks out of exhibit on opening night at CSULB

After woods paused the main sound installation of “American Monument” with the stipulation that Meyer be reinstated as director, which she never was, it was recently announced in June that an “unpaused” iteration of the traveling installation will open at UC Irvine in October.

The question of how Kleefeld’s gift would help bolster the museum’s recent commitment to planning more diverse programming, which past exhibitions seemed to reflect—including “American Monument” and “Call and Response, When We Say… You Say” in partnership with Wilmington-based Slanguage Studio—went unanswered.

In response to how Kleefeld’s gift will directly impact students, CSULB Chief Communications Officer Jeff Cook said there will be an endowed-scholarship component.

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Asia Morris has been with the Long Beach Post for five years, specializing in coverage of the arts. Her parents gave her the name because they wanted her to be a world traveler and they got their wish. She has obliged by pursuing art, journalism and a second career as a competitive cyclist.
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